How Fast Do Steroids Work to Build Muscle? (Science-Based)

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: March 20, 2024
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Drawing from my experience, while helping people achieve their dream physiques, I've always believed that there are no safe shortcuts to gaining muscle.

But since many people take steroids to build muscle quickly, it begs the question: how fast do steroids actually work?

I recently discussed this with a couple of physicians, so I dug into research and spent a few weeks looking over relevant studies and literature to build on my existing knowledge.

Let’s dive straight into the facts.

Quick Summary

  • Steroids can help you build muscle mass faster within three weeks of your steroid cycle.
  • Workouts, dosage, and stacking influence how long steroids will take to produce the desired results.
  • According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), anabolic steroids provide the body with high levels of testosterone, which can significantly boost muscle size and strength.
  • In my opinion, while steroids might promise quick muscle gains, the health risks and ethical dilemmas surrounding their use can't be overlooked. I truly believe that natural alternatives are not only safer but also more sustainable in the long run.

How Fast Can Anabolic Steroids Build Muscle Mass?

A man showing off his biceps

As indicated by our tests, anabolic steroids can indeed build muscle mass faster than any natural means of muscle enhancement. Many users I interacted with reported seeing results within just three weeks of their steroid cycle.

Many people, including athletes, take it to increase their muscle size and strength gains because it’s one of the fastest ways to build muscle.

In fact, steroids work so quickly that many professional athletes (like bodybuilders and powerlifters) begin their steroid cycle 1–4 months before a contest.

Many factors determine how fast steroids work. These are:

  • Dosage
  • Combination with other steroids (stacking)
  • Workout, diet, and lifestyle

Let’s explore each one in more detail.

Dosage

How fast you gain muscle mass from an anabolic steroid depends on how much you take. I’ve noticed that most athletes adjust the amount based on their progress.

For example, if they don’t see results within the first week of the cycle, they up the dosage till the steroids work their effects.

But if they already see significant gains in the first month, they lower the dosage to reduce the many risks of steroid use.

Scientific data confirms that using steroids in higher amounts leads to accelerated rates of muscle development [1].

Combination With Other Steroids

A person holding a syringe containing steroids

Many athletes, especially those in bodybuilding and powerlifting, don’t take just one steroid. They take a combination of different kinds of steroids to achieve faster and more effective muscular development.

For example, if a bodybuilder wants to gain muscle and lose fat quickly, they might take a combination of HGH (human growth hormone) and clenbuterol.

HGH helps with muscle size, and clenbuterol is known for helping shed body fat quickly.

Studies found that stacking different kinds of anabolic steroids has different effects [2].

So, athletes choose a particular stack that’s able to help them get over the plateaus they face.

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Workout, Diet, and Lifestyle

You can take a lot of testosterone but not see significant effects because of living a poor lifestyle.

There’s a common misconception that athletes who take steroids to increase strength skip out on training.

But from my experience, the truth is that they tend to train harder than natural athletes. The steroid simply boosts their testosterone beyond normal levels to help them achieve their goal faster.

Similarly, if a steroid user isn’t getting enough sleep and is consuming a poor diet, they might not see the dramatic effect they expect.

How Do Anabolic Steroids Build Muscle Mass?

A man using a barbell for his biceps

According to National Institutes of Health (NIH) anabolic steroids build muscle mass by providing your body with high levels of testosterone, which significantly boost your muscle size and strength [3].

By mimicking and fueling your body with an external source of testosterone, steroids help you far exceed your natural upper limit of T-levels.

This allows it to build muscle at a much faster rate.

It's essential to note that an individual's genetic makeup can significantly influence their response to steroids; while some may experience rapid gains due to favorable genetics, others might see a more gradual increase in muscle mass.

How Do Bodybuilders Use Them to Build Muscle Mass?

Bodybuilders use steroids to build muscle mass by periodically going on a steroid cycle.

They first begin with a low dose of testosterone and gradually increase the dose as they keep track of the results.

If they see results after a higher dose, they return to taking a low dose to even things out.

During this cycle, athletes maintain a strict diet and exercise regimen to support their strength and recovery.

Benefits and Risks

A guy in the gym doing his workout routine

Many clinical studies suggest both benefits and risks from performance-enhancing substances like steroids.

Here, we’ll explore both.

Benefits

  • Weight loss: Steroids like clenbuterol increase your body’s rate of metabolism, helping you burn fat and get shredded more quickly [4].
  • Enhanced muscle growth: By spiking your testosterone levels, steroids help your muscle grow bigger and stronger within a quick span of time [5].
  • Fights muscle failure and other genetic conditions: Doctors prescribe anabolics for a number of ailments like anemia, muscular injuries, breast cancer, and HIV, to name a few [6] [7].

“Most [steroids] are prescribed as a replacement for sub-normal levels of steroids. They are also prescribed for conditions such as muscle wasting, poor wound healing, and very specific pulmonary or bone marrow disorders.”

- Dr. Ali Mohamadi, MD, Medical Officer, FDA

Risks

  • Mood swings: Roid rage is a common symptom of steroid use because it causes hormonal imbalances, and steroid users tend to be more angry and irritable than non-users [8].
  • Testicular shrinkage: Another severe symptom of steroid misuse is hypogonadism, the shrinking of testicles [9].
  • Substance abuse: Some steroid users fall into substance abuse due to steroid withdrawals [10].

Is Steroid Use the Best Option for Increasing Muscle Mass?

A doctor reading the result of a patient

No, steroid use is not the best option for increasing muscle mass because it’s easy to abuse and leads to a host of negative consequences.

There are better and safer alternatives to taking steroids.

Legal steroids are one of the best supplements to naturally increase your testosterone levels. They use natural testosterone-boosting ingredients to help you grow muscle and lose fat quickly.

They can be a great option for you if you suffer from low testosterone.

Legal steroids can also help you slightly push the genetic barriers that don’t allow you to grow muscle. Many natural bodybuilders use legal steroids to increase muscle size, enhance their strength, and shed fat.

For the best results, we highly recommend taking these while on a strict diet and workout routine.

A Good Night’s Rest

A man having a good sleep on his bed

Most of your testosterone production takes place in your sleep, which is why lack of sleep can lower your T-levels [11].

Even if you work out hard, lack of sleep won’t allow your body to recover.

Fixing your sleep schedule is one of the best things you can do to naturally increase your testosterone levels.

Foods That Boost Testosterone

You can add several foods to your diet that might naturally boost testosterone levels.

Foods like ginger, oysters, pomegranates, green leafy vegetables, fish oil, onions, and extra-virgin olive oil have many health benefits in addition to boosting your natural testosterone [12].

These alternatives might help you put on muscle size, increase strength, and lose fat. And they’re much safer than illegal steroids because they won’t cause any nasty side effects.

FAQs

How Often Do Athletes Take Steroids?

Athletes probably take steroids before every major competition. However, since most athletes keep hush about their steroids use, there’s no concrete answer regarding how often or how many of them use steroids.

Are Steroids Safe in Low Doses?

Yes, steroids may be safe in very low doses. But there have been reports of people experiencing steroid-related side effects even after taking small doses. Your side effects will depend on your pre-existing conditions and genetic disposition.

Can You Use Anabolic Hormones for Muscle Building?

Yes, you can use anabolic hormones for muscle building. An anabolic hormone is like a massager signal transported in the bloodstream, targeting certain cells to perform specific actions. In the case of muscle building, the three primary anabolic hormones that get called into play are testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin. Together, these anabolic hormones will help determine how quickly you can build muscle mass and the degree of strength gains you realize.

Safer Alternatives Are Better in the Long Run

Based on my first-hand experience, while steroids may offer quick gains in strength and size, the side effects they introduce are not worth the potential risks.

It’s better to take the safer route and opt for the top legal steroids. Check our top choices:

With only natural ingredients, these supplements can help you grow muscle, build strength, and shed fat quickly without wreaking havoc on your health.

We’ve extensively tested them with our clients who struggled to gain muscle, and we saw significant improvements within a month, both in terms of subjective and objective data results.

Give them a try to see what they can do for you.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28959650/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16603236/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6711889/
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319927
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/performance-enhancing-drugs/art-20046134
  6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/anabolic-steroid-oral-route-parenteral-route/description/drg-20069323
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11231865/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8036984/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29120657/
  10. https://www.addictioncenter.com/stimulants/steroids/steroid-withdrawal-detox/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4445839/
  12. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323759#top-8-testosterone-boosting-foods
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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